Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Wednesday said that while the prices of petroleum products had increased, the prices of other essentials — such as pulses, vegetables, sugar and wheat — were on the decline.
Virtually addressing the media after a meeting of the PTI's core committee, the minister said that party leaders from Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa participated in the meeting.
Prior to chairing a meeting of the core committee, Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a meeting of the Ehsaas programme, the minister said.
The meeting was attended by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Shaukat Tarin, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection Dr Sania Nishtar and senior bureaucrats.
During the meeting, the premier said that immediate steps should be taken to alleviate the burden on the people and that the subsidy scheme under the Ehsaas programme should be expanded.
"KP and Punjab are ready to become a part of the subsidy scheme. We want that Sindh and Balochistan also become a part of this scheme," he said, adding that Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir had also expressed an interest.
The minister said that the real issue was being caused by the Sindh government which was delaying the release of wheat. "Because of this, a 20kg bag of flour is being sold for Rs400 more in Sindh as compared to Punjab and KP."
He said that the federal government was pressing the provincial government to increase the amount of wheat released so that prices would fall.
"According to our estimates, this year our wheat crop will be historic," he said, noting that the cotton output was 60pc more than the previous year. The information minister said that sugar prices were coming down and would reduce further once the crushing season begins.
The minister said that while petrol prices had increased, the prices of pulses, vegetables, sugar and flour were on the downward trend. If this trend continues, the public will get some relief on this side considering the increase in petrol prices, he said.
He said that the entire government was working on tackling inflation and the premier would announce major programmes in this regard in the coming days.
He said that one of the most important issues discussed during the meeting was the local government elections in Punjab and PM Imran had directed the leadership to launch a public campaign.
The premier also directed party leaders to prepare a schedule for cities and districts in preparation for the local government elections.
During the PTI core committee meeting held in Islamabad, the government decided to start a direct subsidy programme for the poor.
Speaking on the occasion, PM Imran said he is aware of the difficulties being faced by the poor due to inflation. He said the government is expanding the scope of the Sehat Card, the Kisan Card and the Ehsaas programme.
He also expressed reservations over the shortage of flour in Sindh, the report said.
During the meeting, PM's aide Sania Nishtar briefed the premier on the Ehsaas Targeted Subsidy Programme. She said that through this programme, eligible families will receive discounts from grocery stores on specific items.
Contrary to Fawad's claims, Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar had on Monday ruled out "immediate relief" in rising commodity prices, saying it could take at least five months for the "abnormal increase" in global prices to head towards normalcy.
Pinning the recent price hike in Pakistan on the international market, the planning minister said this spell was not expected to subside before March 2022.
"We hope people get relief soon, but — according to experts — the relief may not be visible immediately and actual improvement may be seen from March," Umar told a press conference in Islamabad.
Umar said once international commodity prices stabilised and the trend headed towards normalisation, "the government will then be responsible to pass on that relief to the masses."
He said most experts had predicted a decline in commodity prices from March, while a few felt the reduction in prices could take as long as June to take effect.
While stressing that the world is going through an "extraordinary" situation in terms of commodity prices, he said the rates of basic commodities were still lower in Pakistan compared to the rest of the world.